Benny Tai

Occupy co-founder Benny Tai sacked from teaching post at HKU

Legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting loses his job as an associate professor of law following a decision made by the governing council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on Tuesday (28/7).

Tai, one of the three founders of the Occupy Central in 2014, was sentenced to a 16-month imprisonment after he was found guilty in April last year of conspiracy to commit public nuisance and inciting others to cause a public nuisance in connection with the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy movement. Tai was granted a bail in last August pending an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

The university last year formed a committee to review Tai’s employment. HKU senate earlier decided that although Tai had committed misconduct, his actions did not amount to grounds for dismissal. The final decision rests on the university’s governing council, headed by Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, a non-official member of the Executive Council.

The university’s governing council decided to sack Tai from his tenure as an associate professor of law after the meeting on Tuesday.

The governing council is composed of university members, both staff and students, and lay members, who are not the university’s employees or students. The council has a ratio of lay to university members of 2:1, the information available on the university’s website shows.

According to the University of Hong Kong Ordinance, Tai can appeal to HKU’s chancellor, who is Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, against a decision by the university’s governing council.

On Monday (July 27) HKU student union sent a letter to the university’s governing council, asking it to retain Tai’s tenured job.

Since HKU senate is the top academic authority of the university, the governing council should not defy the opinions of the senate, otherwise the governing council’s decision would be a concern whether HKU’s academic autonomy and instructional autonomy would be affected, according to the student union.

Tai, who is concerned about society, inspired several generals of students in the past, the student union said, adding the senate’s decision of his misconduct already drew public reflection and his misconduct is not sufficient enough to affect his teaching post.

On July 11 and 12, Tai co-organised pro-democracy primaries for the upcoming Legislative Council election. More than 610,000 residents in the city cast their votes in the poll.